While many states remained locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ron DeSantis took a drastically different approach in Florida. The exclusive documentary “DeSantis: Florida vs. Lockdowns” follows the journey of one governor standing against the mainstream COVID narrative. Presented by EpochTV’s American Thought Leaders host Jan Jekielek, who traveled to Florida during the height of the pandemic to get the full story.
Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in an undated photo. (Courtesy of Ron DeSantis for Governor)
Florida Residents Love Freedom
DeSantis graduated from Yale before he attended Harvard law school. He served his country as a Seal Team legal adviser in Iraq and became the youngest governor of Florida in more than a century. Jekielek traveled across the diverse state to get a taste of the people and the current political sentiment. From the cities to the countryside, the film features Americans telling their immigration stories and sharing their love for America and freedom.
DeSantis describes himself as “knee-jerk anti-communist.” Jekielek, whose parents escaped communist Poland in the ’70s, is also deeply moved by people’s stories of escape from communism. DeSantis explained that to people in Florida, tyranny does not seem distant like it might to those in other states. He also spoke about how the founders of the American Constitution held a vision for state autonomy to counter overreach from the federal government.
DeSantis Vows to Never Do Lockdowns Again
DeSantis has been the target of a barrage of media attacks revolving around Florida’s COVID policies. Despite this, the governor has widespread support from diverse groups within his state. The lockdowns of Wuhan, China, in 2020 led governments worldwide to follow suit. While many states were still shut down, Florida was taking steps toward reopening, with DeSantis saying in a press conference, “we will never do any of these lockdowns again.” This came only one month after instituting the initial lockdown. DeSantis noted that the lockdowns were a panic-driven approach and a departure from what the scientific recommendations had traditionally been for pandemics.
Dr. Scott Atlas, a Public Health Policy Expert and Senior Fellow at Standford University’s Hoover Institute, served as a key COVID adviser to DeSantis. According to Atlas, it was appropriate to shut down initially, given the information they had at that time. He believes most people bought into the extreme measures out of fear and because it was supposed to be temporary. The initial understanding was to lock the state down for 15 days to get their bearings and prevent hospitals from becoming overcrowded while they determined how to proceed. But Atlas notes that there was a dramatic shift in the goal: from preventing overcrowding to stopping cases. He says health policy experts shouldn’t just look at the disease but must also look at the impact of what they do to mitigate the effects of the disease.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable Without Causing Harm to Others
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at Stanford University and public health policy adviser. He is the co-author of the “Great Barrington Declaration,” which recommended a focused protection approach. This strategy is based on the fact that COVID-19 poses significantly more harm to the older population than the younger population and that the effects of lockdowns are devastating to public health. For older populations, COVID poses more risk than lockdowns. For younger age groups, the lockdowns proved more harmful than the disease itself. Because of this, Bhattacharya considers it immoral to subject the younger population to lockdowns. Atlas said, “There’s a big reason why lockdowns were never recommended in prior pandemics. It is not true that people have the same risk for hospitalization.” He gives examples of the tens of thousands of cases on college campuses early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. These cases induced excessive panic in the media but no perspective. Atlas cites that of the first 50,000 cases on college campuses, there were zero hospitalizations. Nevertheless, as the news kept tallying the case numbers, college campuses began shutting down. He said they were highlighting exceptions and throwing reason out the window.
Lockdowns Failed to Save the High-Risk
One of the main reasons these experts opposed the lockdowns was because the data showed the policy failed to save the elderly. Atlas said the elderly “were destroyed and killed by the lack of enough prioritization and enough resources.” He explained how public health resources were misallocated during the pandemic and how the lockdowns failed to stop the spread among the most vulnerable populations. For example, nursing home deaths comprised forty to fifty percent of all deaths. According to Atlas, the data showed all the cases in nursing homes came in from the staff in nursing homes, yet the recommendation was to test once per week. He said they should have been testing three or five times per week to prioritize the protection of the most high-risk. Fifteen days to slow the spread did not work, and DeSantis claimed it caused significant damage to people.
What Did DeSantis Do Differently?
In place of extreme lockdown measures, what did DeSantis do in Florida? The answer is simple: he made educated decisions based on accurate data that aimed to protect the vulnerable without harming the rest of the population. This EpochTV documentary shows recorded meetings of the governor going over current COVID-19 data in great detail. Examining the statistics and data with his policy experts, they worked to make decisions that would effectively protect the population. “You don’t have to be a medical scientist to understand the data,” said Atlas. “You just have to be a critical thinker.” DeSantis was concerned about the harms of the virus and the lockdowns alike. Dr. Bhattacharya said when he spoke with DeSantis, he didn’t recall citing an article that the governor had not already seen. Bhattacharya felt that the governor was more educated on the facts than his Stanford colleagues.
Protecting the most at-risk demographic was the primary concern for DeSantis. His policies focused on preventing the discharging of COVID positive patients back into nursing homes. DeSantis listened to the personal insights of family members and nursing home residents, guiding state policies accordingly.
Lockdowns Caused Excess Deaths
Atlas argued that the lockdowns did not just fail to stop the spread of COVID, but they also killed people. According to a CDC report, almost half of the patients in the United States who received chemotherapy skipped treatment during the lockdowns. Forty percent of people with an acute stroke were too afraid to call an ambulance. Thirty to 50 percent of heart attack patients did not come into the hospital. Eighty-five percent of live organ transplants did not get done during the two months of lockdowns.
One in four young adults reported serious thoughts of suicide. Atlas cited that 50 percent of people ages 18 to 24 said they were fearful of any social interaction. Over 300,000 child abuse cases during the pandemic lockdowns went undetected. Atlas called it “an enormous tragedy,” citing emails from people pleading with him to keep speaking out against the harms of the lockdowns. Many had family members who had died of suicide or attempted suicide.
With all this data readily available, why did Florida’s policies differ so drastically from other states? Atlas points out that the burden of proof for the lockdowns should be on the states that implemented them. According to the data, Florida did the best regarding age-adjusted deaths for ages 65 and older. In addition, Florida performed better than over half the states on the total number of deaths from COVID. The economy also did better, with the unemployment rate two to three times higher in California than in Florida at the time of the documentary.
Censorship of Scientific Debate
Nevertheless, DeSantis bore the brunt of much hostility and criticism from the media. He has called out Big Tech for censoring round table discussions, pulling his videos off their platforms, and censoring scientists and doctors who deviated from the mainstream COVID narrative. Atlas spoke to the serious threat facing any who dared to speak the truth about the data. “It’s off the rails. This is not the way civilization should be.” Bhattacharya said one side simply pretended to be correct and called the other side dangerous. In reality, the scientific community had many different opinions on what measures were appropriate and effective. Sadly, people weren’t allowed to hear the different views.
Bhattacharya said, “if you are going to censor scientific debate, you might as well not do science at all,” calling the one-sided narrative “absolutely shocking.” DeSantis said censorship is a telltale sign that the narrative is about enforcing orthodoxy, not about the facts. Interestingly, Florida’s approach never centered around herd immunity but advocated for protecting those at risk without harming those not at risk.
Florida’s Pandemic Legacy: Common Sense, Traditional Values, and Freedom
How did Western governments go from an alleged commitment to fundamental liberties to draconian measures such as lockdowns, censorship, and medical mandates? DeSantis said many leaders made mistakes but will never admit they were wrong. In Florida, they combatted COVID to the degree they could without causing further damage. DeSantis says he doesn’t mind taking criticism for his policies because that’s what the role of a leader is. He said he would rather people swing at him than have the residents of his state suffer. The governor’s philosophy is that a leader’s job is not to impose mandates and lockdowns but to listen, collaborate, and protect.
As a result, Jekielek found the state of Florida to be a breath of fresh air during the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSantis’s deep respect for the American Constitution and those who have fought to preserve freedom made him willing to fight and protect it. While much of the world was afraid and shut down, the EpochTV documentary shows Florida’s businesses were open. Contrary to what the mainstream media predicted, Florida’s legacy in the aftermath of the pandemic appears to be common sense, traditional values, and the desire to live the American dream.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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